Lush gelato with rhubarb bread pudding

Oct 16, 2011 / By Serena
Posted in Food / Good Ideas / Kitchen Adventures / Recipes / San Francisco Bay Area / Travel |

During this time of year I frequently find myself up to my ears in cake. The Jewish new year and harvest holidays are back to back, and with Jewish holidays comes the excuse to over-feed your friends and family. The sentiment is wonderful, and certainly shared with many other cultures: sweet new year wishes and thoughts of bounty and abundance. But, in reality, it means I have cakes of all kinds getting stale on my countertop. Far be it from me to let cake go bad…

Not knowing about my present cake situation, a friend dropped by yesterday with one of my favorite sweet treats – handmade Argentine-style gelato from Lush. She called a few hours before she came, so I had time to drum up something with my left over sour cream coffee cake, (recipe to follow in a coming post  here) I had a couple other ingredients on hand like some “rhubarb butterscotch” and an early bounty of Meyer lemons from our tree. I heard a chant in my head: “bread pudding, bread pudding bread pudding!”

This friend and I must be more synched up than ever – she brought Lush’s divine cardamom gelato. The lemon zest, creamy rhubarb, cinnamon-y streusel (from the cake), and her cardamom addition were a captivating flavor combination.

This isn’t the first time something from Lush has inspired a meal (ahem, dessert). Although the daily choices are ever-changing, I’ve created chilled melon soup just for a scoop of Lush’s fresh basil gelato to bedazzle it, and added a scoop of black and tan – lager/waffle chip/dulce de leche – directly into a pint of the Linden Street beer from which it was made. (Who says a root beer float can’t be made from beer?) This bread pudding is probably the best inspiration yet.

Lush’s creator, Federico Murtagh, who came to the Bay Area from his native Argentina, began working in fine dining restaurants creating desserts until other restaurant owners wanted in on his frozen delicacies. He began making gelato for a few other restaurants, then selling at local farmers’ markets, and now has two brick-and-mortar locations, one on Oakland’s Piedmont Avenue and another inside Epicurious Garden in North Berkeley. His counter reads like a who’s who of quality farms and purveyors with McEvoy Ranch, Yerena Farms, Bellwether Farms (makers of my favorite local ricotta), and Marshall’s Honey Farm (in the southern part of Napa) making regular appearances on the flavor labels. New partnerships include Berkeley’s Amphora Olive Oil Works for balsamic vinegar, dry-farmed early girl tomatoes from Dirty Girl Produce and  Fuji apples from Billy Bob Orchards in Watsonville.

Oakland’s Lush is directly across from the Piedmont Theater – a date night no-brainer (they’re open until 10p, 11p on Fridays). If you’re stopping by Lush in Berkeley, head to the back of Epicurious Garden and take your scoop outside onto the zen-like patio shared with Imperial Tea Court. Nudge them to get composting inside Epicurious Garden, pretty please… Another great way to experience Lush is to take one of Lisa’s food tours of the  Gourmet Ghetto (sometimes I lead them). And, say Hi to Alena for me if she’s manning the scoop counter – she’s one of the sweetest parts of the experience.

Now, to the bread pudding.

Rhubarb Bread Pudding

Turn your oven to 350 F. Assemble large crumbles of your stale cake in a baking dish and pour 3 cups of milk over the top. Set aside.

In a mixing bowl combine 3 large or 4 small egg yolks, 1/3 cup sugar, 2 tsp vanilla extract (use one without corn syrup or synthetic vanillin for best results), and 1/4 tsp salt and beat until almost white and quite frothy, about 2 minutes on high (or manually).

You’ll know it is done with the bright yellow from the egg yolks has toned down to a whitish lemon curd color.

Add 1/2 cup rhubarb butterscotch, the juice of half a Meyer lemon (strained – no seeds!) and the zest of the whole lemon. Whip again until combined – most of the red from the rhubarb will fade when fully incorporated.

Pour this mixture over the milky cake and gently fold it in with a rubber spatula until combined but not completely homogenous. Be easy on the cake so it doesn’t crumble completely apart. Place your baking dish into a larger one filled to an inch-height with water, a ban marie.

Move to the oven and bake for 45-55 minutes, depending on the density of your cake. To test, remove the inner baking dish from the oven and giggle it slightly to see if the custard has fully set – if it is still liquid-y it needs more time. The ban marie helps create a gentle environment so even if your’s takes an hour to set it will probably not burn.

Note that doubling the recipe will effect the baking time, but this is one dessert that isn’t too temperamental if you open and close the oven, plus it is easy to tell doneness without practicing the recipes dozens of times. Let cool for 10 minutes and serve in a shallow bowl with a scoop of cardamom gelato and another dollop of the rhubarb butterscotch.

*(This rhubarb butterscotch is handy way to cope with a crazy rhubarb plant like mine that just won’t quit, I mean 12-month harvest, no joke – I frequently get sick of the stuff but not in butterscotch form.)

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